If you watched this year's Olympic swimming events, you probably noticed a big difference than the last Olympics in Beijing. Namely, the male swimmers had ditched
So, why the change?
Well, the full-body suits that were introduced in early 2008 were a huge hit. World records fell to swimmers wearing Speedo's LZR suits within 2 weeks of the launch. The vast majority of gold medals in Beijing and in the World Short Course Championships in December '08 were by won by swimmers wearing full-body suits. Although FINA initially approved the full-body suits, they decided to do a u-turn and quickly tightened the regulations on race swim suits. This made jammers the standard race attire for male swimmers.
While FINA restricted the amount of suit coverage, this didn't stop manufacturers from innovating. In fact, in many cases, it intensified the race to help swimmers swim faster. Speedo has recently introduced the Fastskin3 product line, which the call a "race system." The offering bundles the suit, cap and goggles into one system. They claim that the three components work together to help reduce the swimmer's drag and help minimize muscle fatigue.
If you are considering buying a jammer, there are a few things you should consider. First and foremost, you'll want to arrive at a budget. Race jammers can range from $400 for high-end suits to $100 for entry-level race suits.
Keeping within your budget, consider the suit's fabric and stitching. These are the two areas that offer the most differences between suits. Most major manufacturers offer suits with hydro-repellant, muscle-compressing fabrics. These suits keep the swimmer in a streamline position as they glide through the water. The compression also helps minimize muscle fatigue, which enables the swimmer to recover faster between swims.
The stitching used by the manufacturers offers another subtle way to reduce drag. The high-end suits will use "stitchless" methods to join the fabrics. By using bonding instead, they avoid the raised seams that traditional stitching causes. Other suits use traditional stitching but aligns the seams with the direction of the water in an effort to reduce drag.
Ultimately, the suit needs to be a good fit. For that reason, it's a good idea to try on a suit before buying it. If you buy it online, be sure to order it from a company with a good return policy. Good luck.
About the author: Jason Day is a former swimmer looking to recapture some of those glory days. Follow him on his blog.